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An interview with Stu Cook of Creedence Clearwater Revisited
Aug. 22, 2011
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By Ryan Gueningsman
Managing Editor

ONAMIA, MN – When Stu Cook and his Creedence Clearwater Revisited bandmates take the stage this Friday and Saturday, Aug. 26 and 27 at Grand Casino Mille Lacs, the shows, like their other 70-plus shows a year, will represent a 50-plus-year friendship, as well as keeping some of America’s greatest rock music alive.

Cook, the original bass player in Creedence Clearwater Revival, along with Doug “Cosmo” Clifford, the band’s original drummer and Cook’s friend of more than 50 years, said he is having the time of his life delivering live Creedence rock to three generations of fans.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band responsible for hits such as “Proud Mary,” “Down on the Corner,” Who’ll Stop the Rain,” “Green River,” and ‘Bad Moon Rising,” among many others, existed in several variations from the days of Cook and Clifford’s childhood in El Cerrito, CA, with their classmate John Fogerty and his older brother, Tom Fogerty.

In the mid-1960s, after performing under several different names, Creedence Clearwater Revival was born and the foursome was on its way.

“We were extremely close and naive when we started up until when Creedence started, then things got very serious and life moved into a different lane,” Cook said of his friendship with Clifford and the band’s launch into rock and roll infamy.

The band had, perhaps, one of the shortest runs in rock and roll history, but produced more top hits than most musicians could dream of. Creedence Clearwater Revival was together from 1968 until 1972. Now, some 40 years later, Cook said he doesn’t have any single favorite memories of the Creedence heyday, but said a few things stand out.

“It’s all kind of dim at this point,” Cook said with a laugh. “What I remember, generally, is what it felt like to hear your music on the radio over and over again.”

Cook said it was something he and his Creedence bandmates had always hoped for and strived for.

“It wasn’t until Creedence – until we finally morphed into a band that was good enough to have hits. We were nine-and-a- half years in the making. We learned how to play our instruments together, we learned how to make records together. We all kinda grew up together when we went to junior high and high school together, so it was a real dream come true for us.

“I can remember celebrating when ‘Bad Moon Rising’ was number one in England, and just little things along the way. We played Royal Albert Hall. That was terrific – we played there twice.”

Record label disputes, along with disagreements and bad blood with John Fogerty, found Cook and Clifford fast-forwarding to 1995, which was known as the “year of the reunions,” with a number of legendary rock and roll bands observing 25 years of music.

A friend approached Cook and Clifford about doing something to “revive” the music of Creedence Clearwater Revival, and thus Creedence Clearwater Revisited was eventually born. Fogerty obtained an injunction against Cook and Clifford, preventing them initially from performing as Creedence Clearwater Revisited, however this was overturned and Revisited moved forward.

“We’ve been doing this project 17 years now, and that’s amazing,” Cook said, admitting a little naivety again about forming the band and what it would become.

“The idea of doing some private stuff, corporate parties, and things like that was fairly naive on our part,” Cook said. “That never really materialized. We do a lot of corporate work now, but originally it was all shows for the fans, for the public.”

Sometimes, up to three generations of Creedence fans enjoy hearing the hits live.

“We have original fans who may or may not be aware of some of the band’s history and the drama, but all of our new fans – I say new fans – there are three generations of fans now – the second generation and third generation are definitely more focused on the songs, the music, the performance, and the concert experience. That’s gone a long way toward our broad acceptance.”

Originally, there was some hesitation about a new “Creedence” group minus frontman John Fogerty, however Cook and Clifford have put a lineup together that they feel does the music justice.

“Our approach, from a production point of view, is a very modern mix,” Cook said of what fans can expect from Creedence Clearwater Revisited. “The sound, the lights, we use the best production available so that it’s a more modern sound than the original recordings. Doug and I just play what we play. That’s the whole rhythm section of the original recordings and makes it sound and feel like the original band. A huge part of rock and roll is the sound and the feel of the rhythm section, it’s the key to the music, I think.”

In addition to Cook and Clifford, the current Creedence Clearwater Revisited lineup consists of lead singer/rhythm guitar player John Tristao (who rose to prominence as lead singer for the band, People when its hit “I Love You” bulleted into the top ten), multi-instrumentalist Steve Gunner, a St. Cloud native, and lead guitarist Kurt Griffey.

Gunner was living in Los Angeles when Cook and Clifford put the band together, and a friend recommended him.

“It worked out from the very beginning,” Cook said. “This is Steve’s 17th year. It’s Kurt Griffey’s first year. Kurt is a friend of Steve’s, actually, and just joined us this March.”

Griffey has recorded and toured with musicians including members of the Eagles, Foreigner, the Moody Blues, Wings, Lynyrd Skynryd, Santana, and Journey.

“He’s just a terrific guitar player and a hell of a nice guy to hang with,” Cook said. “It’s just been a really smooth transition. I think Kurt is a fantastic addition to our band. John Tristao plays killer rhythm guitar, and Cosmo and I do the pick-and-shovel work.”

For the last 17 years, Cook and Clifford’s five-piece band has been delivering a complete set list of all the Creedence hits to fans literally across the world. The band released a 22-song live collection of Creedence hits in 1998. Can fans expect any new music from this band? The answer is a laugh and a resounding “no.”

“I don’t see any room to add new material to the catalog,” Cook said. “We’re working with a great catalog, no question about it. Fogerty wrote a batch of killer songs for this band, and that’s what the fans want to hear. I think it would be difficult, if not impossible, to contribute songs in a different writing style, and I don’t think the fans would be interested in it, frankly.”

Cook said Creedence Clearwater Revival has “a unique corner in the history of pop music, and I think it would be a mistake for us to try to expand that on the name of the band.”

“The stuff is great, and we enjoy playing the heck out of these songs,” he said.

“We feel like we’re on the senior rock tour,” he added with a laugh. “We’re playing the songs that we rightfully . . . we were involved in these songs from the very beginning, and that’s enough. To try to take it into another direction or place, we’re just not interested in going there.”

Looking back to the late 1960s and early 1970s, Cook said he can honestly say he’s having more fun doing what he is doing right now.

“Musically, it’s come at the right time in my life,” he said. “The last almost two decades of this project have been just great to be able to be out and play with Cos every night and celebrate this music. That has been just an additional blessing. The first time around was amazing. Now, we have this second time around. It certainly wasn’t in our thinking 20 years ago.”

Cook and Clifford have been friends for more than 50 years, longer than a lot of marriages last these days.

“I think it just keeps getting better,” Cook said. “Everything changes as you have your own life. We have our own families, kids. Doug’s got three grandkids, so we have that track of our lives, as well, but we always come back to our professional life, which started when we were kids with a dream.”

Cook said he and Clifford have done a pretty good job with the “balancing act” of keeping their personal lives together.

“I’d have to say that both sides have had their ups and downs but, in the end, they’ve both – the personal lives and professional careers – have been fantastic journeys,” Cook said. “We’re blessed in many ways, and being able to rock together is certainly one of them.”

Cook said he is looking forward to performing again at Grand Casino Mille Lacs, and said Creedence Clearwater Revisited has done several shows there.

“We always have a good time when we’re up there,” Cook said, “so if you’re thinking about something to do on the weekend, come on down for a night of some fun, and we’ll do some serious rockin’ together.”

Creedence Clearwater Revisited will perform Friday, Aug. 26 and Saturday, Aug. 27 at Grand Casino Mille Lacs.

For more information on Creedence Clearwater Revisited, visit www.creedence-revisited.com.

For more information on Grand Casino Mille Lacs, visit www.grandcasinomn.com.

Ryan Gueningsman is at ryan@heraldjournal.com.

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